Australia Being Left Behind in Renewable Storage Race as Global Industry Prepares for Next Phase of Solar Technology at US Conference

September 26, 2022

Australia’s future electricity system must include zero-emissions energy storage that can be dispatched overnight to urgently replace retiring coal power plants, Australia’s peak body for solar thermal has warned as it attends the industry’s international conference, SolarPACES.

The Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute (ASTRI) is an ARENA-funded group of academics, engineers and energy industry stakeholder who facilitate awareness and commercial uptake of solar thermal technologies such as Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). CSP uses mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays, in the form of heat, which is then stored and subsequently used to drive an electricity-generating turbine.

As the first utility scale CSP plant nears commissioning in Australia, ASTRI is warning energy policymakers that the technology race that should be led by Australia is being pursued offshore, as evidenced by the representatives at SolarPACES in New Mexico.

“There’s more than a hundred CSP plants in operation around the world, producing 32,000 GWh of generation, yet in Australia we’re yet to reach a final investment decision on the first one,” said Director of ASTRI, Dominic Zaal. “Given our high solar radiation levels, concentrated solar should be one of our core competencies, but other countries such as Morocco, Chile and China have already settled on the technology and are building CSP capacity into their grids.”

Mr Zaal said CSP provided three things that the Australian energy system needed: zero-emissions electricity at a utility scale; synchronous power, thanks to the fact that it uses heat and a turbine to produce electricity; and 12 – 15 hour storage which allows CSP to power the crucial ‘overnight’ market for electricity, as well as cover for ‘reliability events’.

“The Australian system is aiming for a target of over 80 per cent renewables in the National Energy Market, which will predominantly consist of solar PV and wind generation,” said Mr Zaal. “Solar PV and wind are variable generation technologies, so the more that PV and wind enter the system, the greater the grid instability and the stronger is the argument for gas – and even coal – to remain in the grid as firm, dispatchable power.”

Coal currently provides most of Australia’s overnight electricity, but coal-fired generation is being actively retired and a replacement is required.

Mr Zaal said gas or even the postponement of coal retirements is not the only solution to the ‘overnight’ storage problem. “With such abundant solar resources, Australia must look to CSP as one of the key options to address the overnight issue. That’s why we call it ‘Solar at Night’.”

Mr Zaal said lithium-ion battery was the best zero-emission storage technology for mobility and short duration uses, however it was not fit-for-purpose in a long-duration, utility scale role.

“Batteries are optimal for up to 2 - 4 hours of storage for utility scale power, but batteries don’t meet the 12 – 15 hours requirement. There are only a few options for zero emission, dispatchable storage that could deliver utility-scale power for longer than 12 hours, including pumped-hydro, CSP, bioenergy and hydrogen. CSP makes sense in Australia because of our high solar radiation levels.”

He said that while CSP had high capital costs, the energy it provided was relatively low cost. CSP delivered the lowest aggregate energy cost to end users when it was considered as part of an optimised system, with PV for day-time energy, wind for some day and night-time energy, and CSP for firm night-time energy.

The SolarPACES conference in New Mexico is a gathering of the world’s CSP experts, from September 27 – 30. The conference has not been held face to face for the first time in two years because of COVID. However, much had happened since the last conference.

“Over twenty new CSP plants are being progressed, including ten new plants in China, new plants in Spain, a 700MW project in Dubai, and an 800MW CSP plant in Morocco,” said Mr Zaal.

He said Australia’s Energy Ministers had recently agreed to put emissions goals into the planning of their state electricity systems, meaning that the long-duration storage gap could no longer be put on the back-burner.

“The long duration storage will have to be dispatchable and zero emission and we believe CSP is one of the best technology solutions to do that. In New Mexico we’ll be in talks with nations that are investing billions in this technology, and we believe it’s time for Australia to focus on the benefits of Concentrated Solar Power.”

Read more

Future looks bright for CST power as decarbonisation focus shifts beyond 2030

A new report from the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute shows that concentrating solar thermal power has a major role to play in cost-effectively decarbonising electricity, industry and fuels over the short- and long-term.

Learn more

The Australian Concentrating Solar Thermal Value Proposition - Full Report

Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST) uses mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays to a small area (receiver) to produce medium to high temperature heat (from 150°C up to 1,000°C or beyond). The heat can be used immediately or stored in a Thermal Energy Storage (TES) system- for multiple hours or even days. The heat can be used directly as industrial process heat or further utilised to generate electric power or to drive chemical processes. The report examines the values that CST can provide to Australia across grid connected and remote / off-grid power generation, industrial process heat and green fuels production.

Learn more

Australia an Emerging Market for CSP

With Australia committing to 43% emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050, attention is increasingly turning to the need for renewables that incorporate long-term energy storage and dispatchability. That is preciselywhat CSP offers.

Learn more

CSP - A Key Technology to Decarbonise the World

This briefing is intended to showcase CSP technology and why it has a key role to play in the energy transition in Australia and all high solar resource countries.

Learn more

The Australian CST Value Proposition Summary

‘The Australian Concentrating Solar Thermal Value Proposition’, commissioned by ASTRI, prepared by engineering firm Fichtner and assisted by ITP Thermal, assesses CST’s role and value across four Australian use cases: grid connected power; remote area power (mining); industrial process heat; and green fuels production.

Learn more

Response to, Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water

The Australian Solar Thermal Industry Association (AUSTELA) responses to, Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water in the Submission Capacity Investment Scheme.

Learn more

Response to Western Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety – Energy Policy WA

The Australian Solar Thermal Industry Association (AUSTELA) shares some recommendations and concerns regarding the Reserve Capacity Mechanism Review Information Paper (Stage 1) and Consultation Paper (Stage2).

Learn more

Key role of solar thermal power in decarbonising Australia

Published in Eco Generation: The CSIRO’s “Renewable Energy Storage Roadmap” has been endorsed by the Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association (AUSTELA), particularly its findings that outline the significant role concentrating solar thermal power (CSP or CST) will play in supplying industrial heat and long-duration storage to the nation, writes Gareth Pye.

Learn more

Concentrated solar power is an old technology making a comeback. Here's how it works

Published in the ABC: There was a time, not long ago, when the future of electricity generation looked something like the opening scene of Blade Runner 2049, with endless arrays of mirrors in concentric circles.

Learn more

Batteries won’t cut it – we need solar thermal technology to get us through the night

Published in The Conversation: Australia’s transition to renewables is gathering speed, but there’s a looming problem with storage. We will need much more long-duration storage to get us through the night, once coal and fossil gas exit the system.

Learn more

CSP will provide low-cost clean power to heat-intensive industries and deliver long-duration energy storage

The Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association (AUSTELA) has supported the findings of CSIRO’s Energy Storage Roadmap which outlines the significant role that concentrating solar thermal power (often referred to as CSP or CST) will play in supplying industrial heat and long-duration storage.

Learn more

Capacity Investment Scheme a Positive Step Towards Renewables Generating Overnight Electricity, says AUSTELA

Spokesman for the Australian Solar Thermal Industry Association (AUSTELA), Dr Keith Lovegrove, has welcomed the Energy Ministers’ announcement of a Capacity Investment Scheme which has the potential to address the lack of long-duration storage for renewable energy.

Learn more

AUSTELA Releases 'Solar At Night' Energy Market Policy Brief: Renewable energy policy must incentivise and reward projects based on MWh capacity, not simply MW.

Australia’s future energy system requires a substantial increase in long-duration renewable storage but it must be measured in megawatt/hours for it to strengthen the electricity grid, according to the Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association (AUSTELA).

Learn more

Solar at Night

Solar at night Director of the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute, Dominic Zaal, offers a deep dive into the capabilities of concentrated solar thermal technology, including what has been proven by global projects so far and how the all important Power Purchasing Agreements stack up.

Learn more

‘Solar At Night’ Project Resolves Grid’s Storage Gap

A campaign has been launched to ensure Australia’s future energy system includes the multiple hours of daily storage required for users to have access to reliable energy solutions overnight.

Learn more

Capacity Mechanism must incentivise investment in dispatchable renewable electricity that can generate overnight

Australia’s future energy system must include renewable power generators that can be dispatched for 12 or more hours, to meet Australia’s zero-emissions overnight power needs.

Learn more

ASTRI and AUSTELA joint statement on the capacity mechanism

The Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute (ASTRI) and the Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association (AUSTELA) welcome the Energy Security Board’s (ESB) discussion paper on the capacity mechanism.

Learn more
Web Design

How to earn a living being a web designer at Finsweet

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat.

Learn more
Web Design

How to earn a living being a web designer at Finsweet

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat.

Learn more
Web Design

How to earn a living being a web designer at Finsweet

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat.

Learn more